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Healthy Incentives Pilot Shows Small Investment Leads to Big Impact

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack announced the results of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) , a pilot project designed to test the impact of incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among SNAP recipients. The pilot showed that an ongoing investment of less than 15 cents per person per day may result in a 25 percent increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among adults. Adults receiving the HIP incentive consumed, on average, an ounce more fruits and vegetables per day than non-participants.

These are promising and exciting results. But we know that there is no silver bullet that can solve the problems of poor diet and obesity among American children and families. Despite increased public awareness of the vital role of nutritious food choices and proper physical activity on our health, the habits of most Americans—SNAP recipients and non-recipients alike—fall short of the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And although research shows that healthy foods aren’t necessarily more expensive than less healthy options, many low income people face additional time and resource challenges when it comes to putting healthy food on the table that can make less healthy options seem more appealing. Read more »

They’re Back! Web Cam Catches Sockeye Salmon Returning to Tongass Spawning Grounds

Through the end of August, you will get the chance to be entertained as sockeye salmon swim along Alaska’s Steep Creek as the adults spawn before swimming to their final deaths.

The Forest Service has placed the salmon cam in the creek on the Tongass National Forest so viewers world-wide have the opportunity to view fish in their natural setting. The ability to watch salmon in the wild is a treat for many people, but the underwater camera gives you a more intimate, unique look. Read more »

USDA Grant Recipient Featured as “America’s Best Ice Cream” on ABC’s Good Morning America

Twins Katrina and Will Edwards, both age 5, and their father Tim dig into ice cream at the Kelley's Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  The creamery started operations with assistance from two USDA Value Added Producer grants. USDA photo.

Twins Katrina and Will Edwards, both age 5, and their father Tim dig into ice cream at the Kelley's Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The creamery started operations with assistance from two USDA Value Added Producer grants. USDA photo.

What is your favorite thing about summer? Is it the longer days, trips to the lake, outings to a local amusement park, or family trips to get ice cream?

For my family, one of our favorite things is taking a family outing to a local farm and creamery, Kelley’s, for some homemade ice cream and making it a point to try a different flavor each time.

The national early morning show, Good Morning America (GMA) wanted to know what America’s favorite thing about summer is, so they asked viewers and the overwhelming response was – getting ice cream with family and friends.

Since July is National Ice Cream Month, GMA decided to find and showcase America’s Best Ice Cream. Read more »

NRCS Works with Tribe to Revive Deep-rooted Ag Practices

NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.

Native American agriculture techniques once dominated the continent, but after the arrival of Europeans, many of those traditions were nearly lost. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with tribal communities and ethnobotanists to restore some of these techniques and crops.

NRCS Earth Team volunteer Ken Lair is working with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley in California to test a cultivation technique to stimulate growth of the plant nahavita, or blue dicks.

Traditionally, when native people harvested geophytes through digging, they did more than just retrieve the largest bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes for eating—they also replanted the smaller ones so that they could grow into new plants. Lair is testing this cultivation technique by growing nahavita at the Big Pine Indian Reservation. Read more »

Native American FFA Members Discuss the Future of Agriculture with USDA Officials

Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse (center) with Native American FFA Students: Hannah Nichols (left), Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and Jessica Wahnee (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okla.) (right). USDA photo:  Bob Nichols.

Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse (center) with Native American FFA Students: Hannah Nichols (left), Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and Jessica Wahnee (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okla.) (right). USDA photo: Bob Nichols.

The future of America is entirely about its youth. According to figures provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sixty percent of the farmers in this country are 55 years old or older. Will the next generation take over for their parents and accept a rural lifestyle?  What options are available for promising students, many of them minorities, living in economically challenged rural areas?

Last week, USDA welcomed two Native American members of the National FFA organization to the Agriculture Department for meetings with Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse, Arthur “Butch” Blazer, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and representatives of the USDA Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), including Director Leslie Wheelock.  FFA members Hannah Nichols (Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana) of Elton, La. and Jessica Wahnee (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okla.) of Morris, Okla. were in the capital for the FFA Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) and were accompanied by Kent Schescke, director of government and non-profit relations for the National FFA. Read more »

Summer Harvests Can Turn Into Summer Meals for Kids

“Kids in NY find enjoying the farm’s bounty is a perfect summer activity.” Photo Credit Lindsay Morris

“Kids in NY find enjoying the farm’s bounty is a perfect summer activity.” Photo Credit Lindsay Morris

Summer is the season when harvests of healthful foods are most abundant: gardens overflow with zucchini and berries, trees are laden with sweet, ripe fruit, and farmers tend and harvest crops from dawn until dusk. Despite the seasonal abundance, many children go hungry when school is out and the food programs that fed them during the year are no longer part of their daily routine.

Bringing summer’s bounty to hungry kids is “just common sense” according to Cathy Rogers, School Food Service Director for Pipestone Area Schools, located in a small city of 4,000 in the southwest corner of Minnesota. Every day during the summer months, she serves fresh foods from local producers to 400 of her students. Read more »